It's time to mourn for what is lost and let it go.
My losses may feel like load-bearing walls in the structure of life, but, as I keep reminding myself, in fact they're mere plywood. Fling them away and move on, I say.
The first loss: Black Friday. Not that it's gone, and not that I ever rose before dawn the day after Thanksgiving to shiver outside a big-box store anyway. I refused to do penance in return for a Cabbage Patch Kid or that year's equivalent.
As a reporter, though, I once wrote a story about post-Thanksgiving sales that required me to meet someone at a mall's business office at 6:30 a.m. That was enough suffering for one holiday.
My point is, Black Friday isn't the gateway it once was. For decades, the day after Thanksgiving was practically a legal holiday. Everyone except a few dedicated shoppers (I call these people "my sister") respected this start line. It went beyond sales to the celebration itself. We could shop, light the window candles, hang wreaths, play Handel. 'Twas officially the season.
Now the competition is seeing who can jump the gun first. Some stores open on Thanksgiving itself. Others announce Christmas sales the moment the last trick-or-treater pours his haul onto the living-room rug. Black Friday is as meaningless as National French Toast Day, which incidentally falls on Thanksgiving.
I'm sorry to see it go. I liked having a gentle bulwark against Christmas frenzy. We had autumn, Halloween and a day of gratitude before three weeks of hearing "Christmas, Christmas time is near" in chipmunk voices. Now the tumult begins in September, and I have the feeling nobody's in charge, the world is imploding and the center won't hold. Of course, I have that feeling anyway.
Another loss: Christmas cards. Yes, they're still here, too. You send them; I send them. But the world has changed, and electronic greetings are gaining ground. Never again will the post office be overwhelmed during the holidays. The idea is ho-ho-ho-able.
Why should this make me homesick? Early in my adult life, I didn't bother with Christmas cards. I thought I was too busy decorating, shopping, wrapping gifts and baking 2,600 miniature raisin loaves for the neighbors.
The trouble was, we received cards -- warm, enthusiastic, genuine. Soon the mere sight of those friendly envelopes in the mailbox caused gnawing guilt, with which I wrestled until I listened to the voice in my head: "Just send cards, you nitwit!" the voice was saying. "You like cards!"
I send cards now. I send them, send more and sometimes, in desperation, resort to sending the unsolicited samples my husband gets in the mail. Sometimes I complain, but that's OK. Complaining about sending cards is permissible, according to my Christmas guidelines. Complaining about anything is permissible at this time of year. Just keep it down to a murmur is the only bylaw.
A third loss: family elders.
I'm not saying my family has no elders. It has elders; I'm half of them. What I want is for my childhood elders to return, prepare Christmas dinner with turkey, ham and dozens of side dishes, and then I want them to clean it all up while my cousins and I run shrieking through the house. I want those elders to decorate the tree, set the choir candles in their wooden stall and place the arrangement in my grandmother's dining room so I can process the wax singers two by two onto the risers while humming "Silent Night."
I didn't resist becoming an elder. Our daughters were small when my husband and I hosted our first Christmas, releasing my in-laws from the labor and the stress. We planned as if for a coronation, counted people, counted silverware, bought more forks, counted the chairs and recruited the piano bench, kitchen stepladders and stools.
We continue to host sprawling, amiable holiday gatherings, now with our daughters and their families. I'm still counting; I'm still buying forks. And I still think of those previous elders and hail them for their faithfulness, admire their energy and envy their ability to make gravy.
I wish they could return. But I'll let it go.
Write to Margo Bartlett at email@example.com.